Bura is a trick-taking game for two players. It has the rather unusual feature of allowing a player to lead multiple cards to a single trick. Players can even lead three cards at once to wrest control of the lead from the other player! Another oddity is that the hand ends when a player thinks they have reached a winning point score—and they have no way of knowing they have, other than their memory of the cards they’ve captured!
Bura is a game of Russian origin. It is said to be particularly popular among inmates passing the time, and among ex-convicts who keep on playing it once they get out.
Object of Bura
Bura is played with a 36-card deck of playing cards. To make such a deck, start with a standard 52-card deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Then, remove all the 5s through 2s. You’ll be left with just the 6s through aces in each of the four suits.
Bura is typically played with hard scoring. You will need some form of token, such as poker chips, matchsticks, or beans. If you’d like, each of these can represent some amount of real money, which you and your opponent should agreed upon. Give each player the appropriate number of tokens according to their buy-in. If not playing for money, simply give an equal number of tokens to each player.
Each player antes one token. Shuffle and deal three cards to each player. Turn up the next card and place it in the center of the table. The suit of this card is the trump suit. Place the remainder of the deck on top of this card, at a right angle to it, forming the stock.
In Bura, the 10 ranks as the second-highest card, just below the ace. The rest of the cards rank in their usual order. Thus, the full rank of cards is (high) A, 10, K, Q, J, 9, 8, 7, 6 (low).
The non-dealer leads first. They may lead any card they wish. Their opponent then plays any card they like to the trick; they need not follow suit. If either player plays a trump, the higher trump wins the trick. If both cards played are of the same suit, the higher card takes the trick. When both cards in the trick are of different non-trump suits, the person leading to the trick wins it.
A player may lead as many as three cards, provided they are all of the same suit. The opponent must then play the same number of cards in response. In order to win the trick, the opponent must play cards that would beat each of the cards led if a trick was composed of only those two cards. For example, if a player led a 7 and a 9 in a non-trump suit, the opponent would have to play an 8 or better of the same suit, or a trump, to beat the 7 and a jack or better, or a trump, to beat the 9. If they cannot beat both cards, they lose the trick.
After the winner of a trick has been determined, that player takes the cards and places them face-down in a won-tricks pile in front of them, then leads to the next trick. Then, each player draws from the stock, starting with the winner of the trick and alternating, until their hand once again contains three cards. If there will not be enough cards left in the stock to replenish the hands, the players do not draw at all, instead simply playing on with their hands as they are.
If a player has one of the following three-card hands, they may lead them to the trick, even if they did not win the previous trick (and thus would not normally be entitled to lead). These special leading combinations are:
- Bura: Three cards of the trump suit.
- Three aces
- Molodka: Three cards of the same non-trump suit.
To play one of these hands, the player holding it announces it prior to the player who won the last trick leading. If both players hold one of these combinations, a player with a bura takes priority, then one with three aces, then one with a molodka. If they announce the same type of combination, the player who won the last trick retains the right to lead.
When a bura is played, the winner of that trick wins the hand and claims the pot. That is, if only one player has a bura, that player will win the hand. If both players hold a bura, the leader’s opponent must have cards outranking all three cards in the leader’s bura.
For all other combinations, the trick is played out as usual, and game play continues.
Ending the hand
Game play continues, with both players mentally keeping track of the cards they have captured in tricks. Cards score as follows:
- Aces: eleven points.
- 10s: ten points.
- Kings: four points.
- Queens: three points.
- Jacks: two points.
- 9s through 6s: no points.
When a player believes they have reached a score of 31 points, they declare this to their opponent. Note that the won-tricks pile must remain face down at all times, and a player cannot look through it to aid in their declaration. Once the declaration is made, the player turns the cards face up and calculates the score. If they did, in fact, capture 31 or more points in tricks, they win the hand and collect the pot. Otherwise, they must pay into the pot an amount equal to whatever it already contains.
If the players run out of cards before either one makes a declaration of collecting 31 points, the hand is a draw. Neither player wins the pot, and both players ante again to start the next hand.
Chicago (not to be confused with the Low Chicago rule that is sometimes added to Seven-Card Stud games) is a unique game for two to four players. In Chicago, players form the best poker hand they can through a few rounds of Draw Poker-style play. Then, they use these cards to play through a trick-taking game. However, the only trick that matters for scoring purposes is the last one!
Despite bearing the name of an American city, Chicago is a Swedish game. It first gained popularity in Östergötland province in southern Sweden. From there, it spread throughout the country.
Object of Chicago
To play Chicago, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Make sure you never have to worry about beaten-up or dirty cards by always playing with a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. You also need something to keep score with, such as pencil and paper, or a smartphone scorekeeping app.
Shuffle and deal five cards to each player. The remainder of the deck becomes the stock.
First draw and showdown
The player to the dealer’s left goes first. They may discard any number of cards, from zero to five. They keep these discards face down, and placing them in a discard pile in the center of the table. The dealer then deals the player the same number of cards they discarded, bringing them back to a five-card hand. The next player to their left then has the chance to discard as well, and so on around the table to the dealer.
After all players have had a chance to draw new cards, the player to the dealer’s left may declare that they hold a poker hand of at least a pair or better. Initially, they name only the type of hand they have, not the rank of the cards. If the player does not have at least a pair, or they do not wish to disclose the content of their hand, they may pass. The next player to the left may then declare a higher poker hand, or likewise pass. This continues on around the table.
If a player holds a poker hand of the same type previously declared by a previous player, the first player must declare the rank of the relevant cards (for example, “two pair, kings high”). The other player may then pass or declare a higher combination. If the combinations remain tied, they continue going back and forth until one of the two passes, or it is established that the combinations are in fact equal.
Note that the showdown is conducted entirely through verbal declarations. At this point, nobody reveals their hand to the other players.
Once it has been established who holds the highest poker hand, that player scores as follows:
- Royal flush: 52 points
- Straight flush: 8 points
- Four of a kind: 7 points
- Full house: 6 points
- Flush: 5 points
- Straight: 4 points
- Three of a kind: 3 points
- Two pair: 2 points
- One pair: 1 point
If two players tie for the highest poker hand, nobody scores for that showdown.
Second draw and showdown, and third draw
After the first showdown has been settled, the players then go through another drawing phase, conducted the same way as before. If the player (or players) holding the highest poker hand in the previous round wishes to discard any of the cards used to form that hand, they must expose all five of their cards to the other players to prove that they indeed held that combination.
After the second drawing round, a second showdown takes place. After that, players draw for a third and final time. No showdown takes place after this draw, however.
If, at any time, the stock is depleted, the discard pile is immediately shuffled to form a new stock.
After the third drawing round, the player to the dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Each player in turn plays a card to the trick. A player must follow suit, if possible; if they cannot, they may play any card. The player who plays the highest card of the suit led wins the trick, and leads to the next one.
As tricks are played, rather than collecting them into won-tricks piles, as is common in other games, the cards are left face up on the table in front of the person who played them. This allows the hands to remain easily identifiable for end-of-hand scoring.
The player who captures the fifth and final trick scores five points for doing so. The player holding the highest poker hand at the end of the hand scores for it, as above.
Ending the game
The cards are then collected, and the deal passes to the left for the next hand.
When a player starts a hand with 46 or more points, they are no longer allowed to discard cards and draw replacements. They must play the hand all the way through with the cards they started with. Note that if a player reaches 46 points in the middle of a hand, this restriction does not apply until the start of the next hand.
Game play continues until one or more players reach a score of 52 or more points. The player with the highest score at the end of that hand wins the game.
Should a player declare a poker hand that it cannot be proven they actually held, because it is not present after the trick-taking and they did not reveal it prior to discarding cards, that player forfeits the game.
Aggravation is a simple game of quick reactions for two players. As in California Speed, players each have half of the deck they’re trying to get rid of by spotting two or more cards of the same rank and dealing new cards to cover them. However, in Aggravation, the number of cards in the layout— and thus the possible number of matches—keeps going up and up!
Object of Aggravation
The object of Aggravation is to be the first to play all of their cards to the tableau.
To play Aggravation, you’ll need a standard 52-card deck of playing cards. Since you’re going to be moving quickly and placing cards as fast as you can, cards can get damaged very easily in this game. Make sure you have a deck of cards which can escape even the most boisterous games unscathed by always playing with Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.
Shuffle and deal 26 cards (half the pack) to each player. Players may not look at their cards. Instead, they hold them in their hand as a squared-up, face-down pack.
On the count of three, each player simultaneously plays one card from their deck, face up, in front of them. If these cards are not of the same rank, the players turn up another card, again at the same time. The players should place their cards on the table so they form a neat grid. The cards played by one player should form one horizontal row near them. Meanwhile, the cards played by the other will line up vertically with their opponent’s cards. These cards collectively form the tableau.
So long as no cards in the tableau are of the same rank, this continues, with players adding more and more cards to the table. Whenever a player notices two or more cards of the same rank, they quickly cover the matching cards with cards from their deck, hoping to beat their opponent to doing so. If this forms any new matches, then whichever player notices it first may likewise cover the matching cards. This continues until all cards in the tableau are of different ranks. Players then resume simultaneously turning over cards, as before.
If both players spot a match and try to cover it at the same time, whoever has played cards to cover it may leave them there. It is fine if a match is partially covered by one player and partially covered by their opponent.
Running out of cards
When a player is reduced to having one card or less left in their deck, their opponent continues turning cards over, one by one, on their own row. A player with only one card can play it to cover part of a match.
When a player has no cards remaining, the next time a match forms, they touch two of the cards and call out “Aggravation!” That player wins the game.
Not every card game makes you go it alone. Many of the world’s great games are designed around partnership or team play. Working together with a partner toward a shared victory can be extremely satisfying. Succeeding in such a game often involves not only attention to the game itself and its strategy, but learning how to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your partner’s hand, and adjusting your play to accommodate them.
However, there are a few important considerations that you need to be aware of before you can start playing any partnership game. These aren’t difficult to resolve, but a little bit of thought put into them will ensure that your game goes smoothly and everyone has fun.
The first thing that needs to be established when playing a partnership game is who will be partners with who. There are two ways of handling this: by leaving it up to chance, or intentionally pairing players with one another. Which works better will depend on your players and the type of game you’re wanting to play.
One method of establishing teams is to do so by a random draw. If you’re doing a normal two-teams-of-two arrangement, take two red cards and two black cards out of the deck. Shuffle those four cards and let everyone pick one. The two players drawing red cards will play against the two who drew black cards.
For other numbers and sizes of teams, adapt accordingly. For example, for three teams of two, use three different suits with two cards each.
The benefit of the random-draw method is that it is unlikely to cause hurt feelings regarding who is playing with who. If you don’t like your partner, well, it’s the deck’s fault, not yours.
However, choosing randomly may result in unbalanced teams if there is a big disparity in skill or experience between players. If the draw pairs two highly-skilled players against two that have never played the game before, nobody’s going to have fun. Another downside is that it may pit close friends or significant others against each other, which may not sit well with some people.
Another option for choosing teams is to simply work out through discussion who will be with who. Sometimes, this is easy to decide. If two pairs of spouses get together to play a friendly game, it’s natural for the couples to play against each other. A group may choose to pair an inexperienced player with a strong player to help them learn the game. In Contract Bridge, some partners work together so well that they never play the game unless it’s with their established partner.
However, there are some pitfalls to this approach. Remember the kid in gym class that was last to get picked for a team? Nobody wants anyone at their game night to feel that way. Also, losses or disagreements over play can spark tensions between partners. Such escalations can lead to hard feelings, or even worse, as happened in the famous Kansas City Bridge Murder in 1929.
Once the teams have been decided, you need to determine where everyone will be sitting. For most games, players should sit so that there is an opponent to the left and to the right of them. As the turn of play goes around the table, players of opposing partnerships will alternate in taking their turns. For four-player games, this also means that players will be sitting across from their partner.
For six-player games using two teams of three, players should sit A-B-A-B-A-B. When playing with three teams of two, they should sit A-B-C-A-B-C.
A practice especially common in Contract Bridge that has spread to other partnership games is to have one scorekeeper on each partnership. This promotes fairness by not allowing one team to have total control over the score. It also permits the two scorekeepers to check their scores against each other, preventing errors.